Bedrock Cairn 3D Pro II Review: Escape the Toe Prison!
After relocating to Mexico, Cass Gilbert rediscovers the joy of cycling in sandals in the dry season and the rainy season alike. For those planning to ride the Baja Divide this winter, or heading to a similarly warm locale, read on for his full review of Bedrock’s Cairn 3D Pro II sandals…
I appreciate that some readers of this site may question the value of dedicating a full review to non-cycle-specific sandals, but with the Baja Divide season in full swing, I wanted to share my experience with Bedrock’ Cairn 3D Pro IIs.
Earlier this year, my buddy Yeshe Parks – you may remember his beautiful Mone El Continente – came over to visit in Oaxaca, bringing a two-year-old pair of Bedrock Cairns as his footwear of choice (and, as it happens, another equally beautiful Mone for the ride). Although I’m no stranger to riding with Bedrocks – I crossed a sizeable chunk of Baja California in the original Cairns a few years ago – seeing Yeshe splashing through rainy season puddles and laughing in the face of thunderstorms reminded me how versatile sandals can be. Since I last owned a pair, the burlier and grippier Cairn 3D Pro IIs have been added to the range, which is the model Bedrock recommended for dirt road loving cyclists—and the one I’m reviewing here.
Indeed, the 3D Pro IIs benefit from an upgraded G-hook-and-loop heel and front strap system, along with a sculpted footbed and a different outsole compound. The standard Cairn use Vibram’s XS Trek, which is actually the longer-lasting option, while the Cairn 3D Pro II features Vibram’s Megagrip, a softer and stickier rubber that’s better for pedals – along with the kind of wet and slippery terrain that paddlers (rather than peddlers) might encounter. Whilst Vibram Megagrip is still considered a hardwearing sole, it’s not quite up there with XS Trek in terms of durability.
Additionally, the 3D Pros IIs feature a subtle, 3D footbed, offering extra support for your toes and heel. The result of this grippier sole and contoured footbed is a sandal that isn’t quite as lightweight and packable as the standard Cairns, and a step further away, as it were, from Bedrocks’ original and ultra-minimalist Classics. But if this is the footware that you’re intending to ride in – rather than carry and wear around camp – it won’t be an issue.
Price-wise, the 3D Pro IIs are a whole $130, which is a $25 upcharge over the standard Cairns. There’s also another model that has the same uppers and outsole with the non sculpted footbed, that lies somewhere in between. All Bedrocks are zero drop and share the same Re-Soul & Repair program. For $55 and upwards, customers can send their sandals in and have them fitted with a totally new sole unit, covering both the footbed and the outsole. In fact, you can even use it as a chance to try a different style of sole unit. As with other Bedrocks, hardware and webbing components can also be repaired or replaced at Bedrock’s shop in Missoula, Montana. The company also donates 1% of its sales to environmental non-profits and sews and assembles their own sandals.
Like the original Cairns, the Pro IIs are easily adjustable. There’s some initial setup time to set the heel hook placement to your liking, after which it’s simply a case of adjusting the side closure. This is a quick gesture that loosens off the sandals to remove them or tightens them up to when you put them back on again, or as the day demands – by way of example, I sometimes adjust mine as the weather warms up and my feet expand.
Last time I reviewed Bedrocks, a reader remarked that riding in sandals is like freeing your toes from ‘shoe prison’. That idea stuck with me and this time around, I’m all the more aware of how carefree my digits feel! When I reluctantly put shoes back on again – which is only when I’m headed out to ride bigger and burlier trails, or planning to spend more time in the high country – I’m immediately struck by how constrained my feet feel, even if the protection and warmth are welcome. I’ve now reached the point that I value this airiness so much that I choose them almost all the time, pairing them with some Bedrock-specific, split toe woolen socks ($19) if it gets chilly camping in the high country.
As for trail riding, the soles are thick enough not to sense the pins of my pedals and grippy enough for me to feel confident across relatively steep and challenging terrain – it only takes me a moment to cinch in the straps for better control of the bike before a descent (aka Go Mode). This is not to suggest that they’ll ever replace my trail shoes, because there’s considerably more ‘play’ between my feet, the pedals, and a pair of sandals than with my 5.10s. But still, the Bedrocks do a surprisingly good job of getting me down the mountain safely – and besides, for the majority of my day rides and bikepacking trips, I’m not spending enough time deciphering techy trails for it to be a major issue.
Similarly, I’ve now become so accustomed to pedalling in them – and using flat pedals, for that matter – that I’m happy to ride big miles in the company of my friends, no longer feeling that I’m at a significant disadvantage compared to those who wear SPDs and stiff shoes. Living in a land of rock, cacti, spines, and even rattlers, there are occasionally times when I fear for the lives of my toes. Here in Mexico particularly, I’ll admit to some concerns about dogs snapping at my ankles, too. But odd scab and graze aside, I have no medical emergencies to report.
And when it comes to rain and warm climates, it’s nothing less than joyous to be riding in sandals. Where once I’d stare worriedly towards the horizon if I sensed an impending storm, sandals make getting wet feet fun again, just like when I was a kid!
As you’d expect, these Bedrocks also shrug of mud, though when things get really gloopy, your feet will slip-slide all over the place on the footbed until you can wash them clean in a creek. Note that I’m talking extreme gloop – as pictured below – rather than standard issue muck. Still, with nothing but some straps and your skin to dry, clomping around in sodden shoes becomes a thing of the past.
As for fit, it’s best to go half a size up. This has been the case for everyone, be it Logan (9.5 to 10), Emma (7.5 to 8), or me (10.5 to 11). Yeshe had the same experience, too.
In terms of wear and tear, mine pair has definitely taken a beating over six months of daily use. As you can see from the photo below, my Hope F20s have worked a number on them, though there’s still tonnes of life left in the Megagrip outsole. Bear in mind that I’m hard on foorware and I wear these sandals day in day out – whether it’s on my mountain bike with its flesh-eating pedals, my dirt road bike with more mellow pins, or for walking around town. More recently, I’ve been using them for trail running with Huesos too.
Lastly, I’d add that I definitely needed to wear these sandals in, or rather, adjust to them – they didn’t feel great from the get-go. I was concerned about the thong-like design, I initially I found them uncomfortable between my big toe and its neighbour, to the point that the cord wore a spot raw on the right side. In time this healed up into a scab, peeled off, and I’ve never had any issues since. In fact, my feet now feel stronger and more resilient than ever.
Please excuse all the gnarly toe close-ups. I’m no J.P.Prewitt-style foot model and toes are such weird-looking things!
- Fantastic all rounders, great for dirt road riding, hiking, and even trail riding, within reason
- Really well made and completely repairable
- Perfect touring footwear for warm temperatures and rainy seasons alike
- So comfortable (for both walking and riding) that it’s hard to go back to shoes again
- Lots of adjustability for a snug fit
- Resoling program means they’re pretty much footwear for life
- My feet feel stronger and hardier after wearing them for a few months
- Begone, foul foot odour!
- Can take some time for your feet to harden up – for me, this was the case with the skin between the big toe and its neighbour
- Up front cost is high (but then it’s a more modest charge whenever you need to resole them)
- Fear Factor, be it thorns, snakes, dogs, or a stubbed toe (all very rare though)
- Less suport than a trail shoe
- If gloopy mud works its way between your feet and the tops of the sandals your foot to slide all over the place
- Expect to have to clean your feet more than usual or be ready for some sidelooks
- Model tested: Bedrock Cairn 3D Pro II
- Sizes available: Men’s US5-14, Womens US6-15
- Average weight: 304 grams for a size 11 sandal
- Strap colors: Seven to choose from
- Price: $130
- Resole: $65
- Place of Manufacture: USA assembled from domestic and foreign parts
- Manufacturer’s Details: BedrockSandals.com
If you can accept a world in which sandals and flat pedals make viable touring footwear, it’s hard to imagine a better option than these Bedrock Cairn 3D Pro IIs. They’re extremely comfortable. The Vibram sole is thick and grippy. Sandals are great for dirt road touring, whether it’s in the rainy season (washing dirty feet is way easier than cleaning mud-encrusted shoes) or in the dry season (I no longer feel stifled and hot throughout the day). My feet feel tougher and stronger than before, and my toes are delighted to be free from their shoe prison! For the most part, I’ve even been happy to trail ride in them, though there are still situations where I prefer to have the stability – and the protection – of fully enclosed footwear.
Of course, a sandal, whether it sports an SPD-style cleat or not, isn’t going to suit everyone and every climate. But if you’re a flat pedler and planning a ride like the Baja Divide – with its gamut of stream crossings, sand, and mud – then the Bedrock Pros IIs could well be the most sensible option out there. This latest Pro II version is grippier than past models and whilst pedal pins will inevitably inflict damage, they’re holding up well so far. It’s good to know that re-soling them is an option too, as and when the time comes.
With thanks to Emma Bucke for additional photos.
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